Increasing Rigor in the Classroom

Instructor: Derek Hughes
In order to ensure that your students are trying their hardest to achieve at high levels, it is important that lessons and activities increase rigor in the classroom. This lesson will outline several ways in which you can help increase the rigor of your students' work.

Rigor Defined

When reading the word rigor, you might be thinking that people who advocate for more rigor in the classroom want classrooms to be more work-intensive and strict. While the word rigor, in normal uses, does mean to be strict or intense, rigor in the classroom is defined slightly differently. Rigor, when used in an educational context, means to maintain high expectations in the classroom and to support students to help them meet those expectations.

By looking at examples from a fourth grade classroom teacher (Mr. Riley), you will see several ways you can increase rigor in your classroom.

Set High Expectations

To increase rigor in his classroom, Mr. Riley makes sure that he sets high expectations for his students at the very beginning of the year. These expectations govern not only student work, but student behavior and interaction. Of course, every teacher strives to set high expectations, but Mr. Riley makes sure that words are turned to action in every aspect of teaching.

For example, one way Mr. Riley sets high expectations for students is by adjusting his questioning towards higher-level questions. These are questions that ask students to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information in the lesson. Mr. Riley, for example, often asks his students to extend stories beyond their endings as a form of higher order questioning. This requires students to evaluate all of the information from the story and create a new ending.

However, simply asking higher-level questions is only half the work. In order to increase rigor and set high expectations, Mr. Riley requires higher-level answers to his questions. It is easy to slip into the habit of accepting subpar answers to get more work done. However, that habit will decrease rigor and lower expectations. You must require students to use critical thinking skills when answering these questions in order to set high expectations.

Support Student Learning

While setting high expectations is a good first step toward increasing rigor, Mr. Riley also knows that he needs to support student learning to ensure they are achieving to the best of their ability. Students cannot be expected to learn something just because you require it. Mr. Riley gives his students the support they need to learn and achieve.

One way Mr. Riley supports higher level learning is by using scaffolding in his lessons. Scaffolding is a teaching technique in which information is split into chunks and students are guided through it. Each chunk of information builds off the previous chunk, similar to scaffolds on a construction project. Mr. Riley uses scaffolding to help build student knowledge by supporting their learning at each step of the process.

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